Sharing Your Narrative

Our house is full of books. Our family likes to read and the kids are homeschooled. There are hundreds of picture books, novels, hard bound books from library sales, and a full set of World Book Encyclopedias; all this without even mentioning the vocal, piano, and church music shelves. For this article I referenced our large hardbound dictionary for the definition of narrative. This is what I found: 1. A story or description of actual or fictional events. 2. The act, technique, or process of narrating…

My classroom is full of narration. A thought or comment in class will spark a memory and then it’s story time. The stories are often in relation to music, but sometimes they are stories from my life that I want to share. I am really good at getting on tangents, but I think in the long run, these moments form connections with students that last long past graduation day.

Music is also a medium for narrating. I know that some of our colleagues are absolutely amazing at this and we can learn a lot from them. More than once over the last couple of years my concert sets have dovetailed together very nicely. Sometimes from the beginning, but more often from the process of working together, the choir makes the music their own and a narrative is formed. Maybe it’s a Christmas story arc, or songs about love, or singing together. I have been very reluctant to program themed concerts in my career, but we did a whole concert of rock music last spring and what a blast we had! I hired a former student from another district to come and collaborate with all my choirs on his guitar. This, in turn, brought up stories and a dialogue about music making not having to end once high school is over.

As music educators we share music that means something to us. It may be a new score that speaks to us or a song we get out of the files at least once every four years because we think every high school singer should experience it. Maybe there is a song we perform every year. My mentor, Dr. Ken Hodgson at U of M-Morris, had arranged Shalom Chaverim in graduate school long before I was born. The Concert Choir would end every tour program with that arrangement. Shalom Chaverim l’hitraot “Farewell my friends till we meet again.” At each venue those words meant a little something different to each member of the audience and each member of the choir.

Our most recent concert was scheduled for Monday March 16, 2020. It was to be a concert set with a theme about singing together and love. Our end of March tour had been cancelled the Friday before, we cancelled the public performance of the concert on Saturday, and on Sunday the governor issued the order that all schools be closed by Wednesday. Our district decided to start two hours late so with half an hour of class we talked logistics about distance learning and then gathered on the risers. Not knowing what the future would bring we stood side by side and sang Shalom Chaverim.

This time of distance has been a challenge for all of us in many different ways. I know that new narratives will come from our trials and triumphs, but there will be much tribulation in between. When the time comes we will not take for granted the privilege it is to tell our stories through singing together. Think about all of the ways you narrate and maybe try something new when you get the chance. We are going to have so much to talk about with each other and with our students. Stay safe, be well, and keep your spirits high.